Armed with a rolled up newspaper, Raymond Stockton hit out at a large wasp that had invaded his bedsit, but missed, and hit the frame of a print of the Andes in winter. It flew around the shadeless bulb in the middle of the room, even though the light was not on. Another swing at it produced no effect as it simply flew out of the way. Normally he didn’t mind wasps, or basically any other insect, as long as they didn’t invade his home, but this one was an irritant. For three hours, it had flown around and had shown no signs of wanting to escape. Occasionally it had landed on the ceiling and proceeded to crawl around, as though knowing Raymond didn’t want it there but stayed because it knew it was being a pest. It didn’t seem to be an ordinary wasp. It was black, and around two inches long.
Landing on the ceiling again, it proceeded on another walkabout, as if it knew it was fairly safe from Raymond, who was 46, five feet four inches, with long, straggly hair, and a moustache that drooped down the sides of his mouth and disappeared into an unkempt stubble. He couldn’t hit the ceiling as it was eight inches out of reach, and standing on a chair was no use as the wasp simply walked or flew away. He wondered what he was going to do. It can’t stay. Normally, insects, if left, or forgotten about, having found their way into a home, simply vanished after a while, and were never seen again, but he guessed that this would not be the same. He wondered if perhaps it was thinking of building a nest here. Maybe conditions were right. Raymond hoped not.
He valued his privacy. He wasn’t exactly a loner but was very untrusting of basically everybody. He didn’t acknowledge his neighbours, and mostly spoke only when spoken to. He liked it that way. Perhaps it was because the news was always negative, and bad. It did nothing to promote sociability, and simply made people suspicious, certainly of strangers, and sometimes friends. Raymond was a product of this line of thought. Paranoia had never been so prominent. Ironic, in fact, that a simple wall can separate strangers at a distance of mere feet, and perhaps sometimes inches, yet keep the mentality of privacy satisfied. Yet, his solitude had been invaded, and he could not be content knowing that the wasp was here. There it was, near the kitchen. It decided to launch itself from the ceiling and fly around in a kind of lethargic manner that seemed to mean it was in no hurry, was maybe giving itself some exercise, or was happy in the fact that it had found a new home. Raymond swiped and swiped at it, but it was no use, he missed every time. It flew back to the ceiling and began wandering around again, seemingly without a care in the world. Bug spray, that’s what I need, he thought and saw that he still had time to visit the local convenience store that sold virtually everything.
After around twenty minutes, he came back, armed with a can of ‘Bugged out’, but found that the wasp had gone, or at least was missing. He stood in the middle of the room, can ready to fire, but there was nothing. Perhaps it had decided not to make this place its home after all, he thought. After a few minutes, he put the can on the windowsill, ready to snatch up if needed.
For the rest of the night, he was aware that it could come from anywhere, but it didn’t. He couldn’t concentrate properly on his television, or radio programmes, and five scouts of the bedsit revealed nothing, and he went to bed that night satisfied that it had gone.
Darkness pervaded the room, and Raymond had been asleep an hour, unaware that other eyes were looking down from the ceiling. The wasp was satisfied that he was fast asleep, and flew down and landed on his pillow. It scuttled beneath his thin duvet and clambered onto his stomach. Raymond was awoken by a sharp stabbing, as though he had been jabbed by a dart. He flung the duvet back and managed to switch on the bedside light. The instant he did, he saw that hovering, inches from his face, was the wasp, only this time, he saw its face. It was human and watched him for two seconds before flying away, out of his sight. No, it can’t be, he thought, clutching his aching stomach. Impossible. He recognised the face. It was of his best friend, who had died two months ago in prison. No way, Raymond thought, breathing heavily. Was this part of a dream? A nightmare? The pain told him that it was not, but what about the wasp’s face? Perhaps that part was a dream, he thought. He did after all jolt from sleep. Yes, he thought. The wasp had stung him, and now it was going to die anyway. He was satisfied with that explanation, and went back to sleep, and found himself in the morning, staring out of the window of his bedsit, at the road below, but not really seeing it, as he was thinking of his friend whom the wasp had reminded him of. Charlie Benson.
Raymond missed him, but, standards had to be kept, rules maintained, and the fact that Charlie had crossed one line, meant the severing of a fifteen-year-old friendship that Raymond had dissolved. Charlie had been good on computers. He was quite adept at using the information superhighway and basically, used it to download films and music illegally to burn onto discs. In Raymond’s view, this was unacceptable, as it was theft, and had called the police, who had arrested him and gave him a £2000 fine that he refused to pay. He chose instead to take a six-month prison sentence and was locked away with dangerous members of society who had committed far worse crimes. One such criminal, who had received news of his girlfriend’s liaison with another man, was in a foul mood, overheard Charlie’s conversation with another convict, and thought they were talking about him. He attacked them both that night, stabbing and killing Charlie and injuring the other man. Raymond had shed no tears.
After approximately an hour, he was sitting on a bench in his nearby park, enjoying the solitude and atmosphere. It was a rare, small space of greenery with a path that bisected it diagonally and was twice the size of a football pitch, but was slowly being eaten into by the growing concrete jungle that surrounded it for miles on each side. Sometimes it became quite crowded, and the feeling of seclusion would vanish, but now it was fine. He was contemplating whether or not to stay, or go and find a quiet corner of a library somewhere and read a newspaper when a sharp pain bolted through him from his stomach. Another came, then another and Raymond fell forward from the bench onto the path. He tried to yell out but found he couldn’t as the pain persisted. He felt liquid seep through his shirt and saw that it was blood. He rolled onto his back and clutched his stomach, but his hands went inside and felt movement, squirming. He managed to look up and see that there were many larvae, eating him. The wasp had laid its eggs inside him, as each of them, at around an inch long, had a small, human face, each that of his ex-friend, who upon crossing over to the other side when he died, found that reincarnation was real.
He, however, discovered a way to choose what he came back as, and to where, as well as to alter the genetic make-up of the appearance, thus reminding Raymond of who was the conscious mind within the wasp. It meant also that reproduction was a lot quicker than normal, and those inside his stomach, all twenty four of them, began to emerge as a distorted version of the catesia wasp, the same as the one that had invaded Raymond’s home. One of them bit into his heart, then, as if on cue, all stretched their wings and flew upwards, circling above him. Raymond saw them all watching him before he died. They then dispersed, flying away in all directions.